Truck drivers’ crossroads: why the strike failed and the

In May 2018, an unprecedented mobilization of truck drivers paralyzed cargo transport in 24 Brazilian states, in addition to the Federal District.

Interventions by the Armed Forces and the state and federal highway police were necessary to put an end to the movement, which lasted two weeks.

At the time, it was enough to reduce the expected growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 2.5% to 1.6% that year, according to the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV).

Since then, the specter of a new national strike of truck drivers has been around Brazil.

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Mainly claiming the stabilization of fuel prices, leaders announced a stoppage last Sunday (25).

The movement, however, did not gain substance, with the exception of mobilizations in isolated points, which were not accompanied by road blocks.

The arrival of Jair Bolsonaro (no party) to the presidency of the Republic seems to have appeased the spirits of the category, which is still demonstrating – with more and more exceptions – support for the federal government.

O Brazil in fact consulted an expert and the leader of the most recent strike to answer: what are the possibilities of a new strike by the walkers?

Truck drivers and pocketbookism

“It is difficult to predict whether there will be a new strike, because truck drivers are a category of workers that does not operate like the others. They are not organized and unionized, so there are no assemblies, no specific leaders, no meetings”,

The assessment is by the historian, PhD in Social History and professor of Contemporary History at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) Larissa Jacheta.

According to the expert, the scenario is the result of the predominance of a strong anti-union discourse, which labels workers’ and left-wing organizations as “pelegs, corrupt and leaning”, in the words of the researcher.

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Larissa recognizes that the category’s support for Bolsonaro acts as a brake on new mobilizations, but prefers not to label the nearly 2 million transport workers as “fascists”. Even so, he emphasizes: “Many of them still believe in this Bolsonaro project, even if it is a lying project, a complete fraud”.

Perspectives

To make a more accurate analysis, says the historian, one should pay less attention to the category’s discourse and more to its unparalleled power to stop the circulation of goods, in a country where almost 70% of goods are transported by road.

“In 2018, I think the progressive field missed a very big opportunity. It was necessary for other fronts of workers to unite with this strike by the walkers, because they have a material impact much more than an ideological one on society”, he opines.

Although they forced the country to recognize their importance in 2018, truck drivers – whether self-employed or CLT drivers – still face the same problems: outdated freight rates, fluctuating fuel prices and exhausting working hours.

Not even the freight table, created by the then Michel Temer (MDB) to appease the wrath of the strikers in 2018, was able to guarantee more comfort to the professionals.

“The minimum freight price is always very outdated, it does not adequately follow inflation, the cost of living, the rise in prices. So, this causes a loss in terms of real gain, because they have a very large increase in production cost”, he explains.

“I think that, at this moment, a mobilization like the one in 2018 will only happen when and if these workers realize that their issues are above the ideological option they made”, concludes the historian.

“No politicking”

The person responsible for kicking off last Sunday’s mobilization is the National Council for Road Cargo Transport (CNTRC), created in November 2020.

Since then, the organization has already been received in person by two figures from the high level of the Pocket team to discuss the truck drivers’ agenda. In March by the minister of the Institutional Security Office (GSI), General Augusto Heleno, and in June by the president of Petrobras, General Joaquim Silva e Luna.

Plínio Dias, the entity’s CEO, guarantees that he represents the interests of workers “without politicking”.

“We are not claiming either ‘out, Bolsonaro’ or ‘Lula Livre’, as people are talking about. We do not have a party flag, but the survival of the transport sector of which we are part. That’s all, nothing else”, he nailed.

Dias recognizes that the proliferation of representative entities makes it difficult to organize a national strike, but criticizes the larger and more consolidated organizations for not responding to the wishes of the grassroots.

In 2018, Brazil experienced the biggest truck driver strike in its history / Agência Brasil

“Truck drivers are already tired of waiting for most of the responsible entities who claim to be truck driver leaders. So we took that attitude. We are there with few entities [mobilizadas]. There are three or four unions fighting for the autonomous truck driver. And the movement is growing every day”, he assesses.

According to Dias, the ongoing mobilization reached 15 Brazilian states. With reduced adhesion, the majority’s option was not to obstruct the highways.

“The stoppage is peaceful. The demand is for the survival of the transport sector and against Petrobras’ abusive increases in cooking gas, gasoline and especially diesel, which makes our trucks run”.

Price fluctuation

In an open letter to the president of the republic published in the month of its foundation, the CNTRC pointed out the Import Parity Price Policy (PPI) as the main responsible for the ills experienced by the category.

In practice, the PPI links the prices practiced in Brazil to the international price of oil and the dollar, causing successive increases in fuel and cooking gas, making the planning of autonomous truck drivers, who often accumulate losses, unfeasible.

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Considered by specialists as the main villain not only of drivers, but of the entire national economy, the pricing policy was implemented by Pedro Parente, president of Petrobrás under Michel Temer.

Catalyst for the 2018 strike, the price of diesel is 15% more expensive today than in the first week of May, on the eve of the national strike. According to the National Petroleum Agency (ANP), the average values ​​jumped from R$ 3.94 to 4.54.

“In the case of 2018, for example, as well as now, the majority of truck drivers – like the majority of the Brazilian population – bought a misleading discourse that the high prices of fuel and cooking gas are a tax problem. And no are,” explains Larissa Jacheta.

Representativeness crisis

Having closely followed the cargo transport sector for 15 years, journalist Almir Francisco, known as Chico da Boleia, is a supporter of the truck drivers’ struggle, but claims that the call for strikes that “die on the beach” wears down the movement without guaranteeing achievements labor.

“It’s not simply releasing a call via WhatsApp and that’s it. Certain people without the slightest responsibility with the sector are calling for a strike without having the leadership for it, and putting the fight and legitimate tool that the strike is in disrepute”.

For Chico da Boleia, the proliferation of drivers’ unions generates a crisis of representation in the sector. And he remembers: “duly organized, the category overthrows the president, as occurred in Chile in 1972. Chilean carters stopped for 26 days, starting a series of demonstrations throughout the country that culminated in the coup d’état”, he says, referring to to the deposition of President Salvador Allende.

Edition: Vinicius Segalla

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